COVID-19: Health Minister David Clark admits he's yet to visit a coronavirus isolation facility

Health Minister Dr David Clark admits he's yet to visit one of New Zealand's isolation facilities as questions continue to be asked of the Government's quarantine testing botch-up.

It comes after revelations 51 out of 55 people who left quarantine early were not tested for coronavirus before their release.

The botch-up saga unfolded following revelations that two sisters were given exemption from managed isolation on compassionate grounds without a COVID-19 test before they later tested positive for coronavirus. The Government is now stressing anyone leaving isolation facilities must return a negative test first.

But Clark told Magic Talk on Wednesday evening he's yet to visit one of those facilities.

"I have attempted to do it at one stage but the time frames haven't worked perfectly," he told host Ryan Bridge, when asked if he'd visited any of the facilities to find out what was going wrong.

"It has been important to me to let them get on with their jobs - my job is to oversee the system, make sure the policies are right, and make sure we're heading in the right direction in protecting the health of New Zealanders," Dr Clark said.

He mentioned it was clear policies weren't being applied appropriately, which was when he acted to immediately suspend compassionate leave.

"I immediately acted to suspend compassionate leave because five million New Zealanders' efforts cannot be put at risk in my view," he said. "I was aware that other people had been let out on compassionate leave but how many of them had not been tested was something that only came through much later."

Asked by Bridge if he would resign should community transmission be detected as a result of 51 people leaving quarantine early without a test, Dr Clark refused to answer saying his job was to make sure New Zealand had the "best system in the world". He said "that's what I'm focussed on" because "we do currently have the best statistics in the world for testing".

"I can be more confident than any other Health Minister in the world, with the testing regime that we have, that we don't have community transmission at this stage," Dr Clark said. "I have a responsibility for the overall system working as it should and as soon as it was evident that it wasn't, I took action."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there was still a very low risk of community transmission as a result of this but couldn't "categorically" rule it out.

David Clark, left, and Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
David Clark, left, and Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Newshub.

Earlier on Wednesday, ACT leader David Seymour said the Government is incompetent.

"These bungling idiots couldn't run a bath let alone a border," Seymour told reporters.

"We're supposed to have the world's smartest borders. I think unfortunately we now have the world's dumbest borders."

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz